Leadership & Ethics

'Ghosts of Abu Ghraib'

By The Cove July 30, 2017


This harrowing documentary titled ‘Ghosts of Abu Ghraib’ presented on YouTube is frequently used as a military ethics case study in training institutions and professional development sessions. The documentary examines the abuse, torture, and murder of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison at the hands of U.S. military police in 2003 and debunks the ‘bad apples’ theory.

The film asks: how can decent young soldiers take these actions? What orders came from the chain of command? The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib filmmaker interviews former detainees, soldiers, and MPs involved in photographed degradation. He references Dr. Stanley Milgrim's early 1960's experiments. The film also traces memoranda from Secretary Rumsfeld, General Sanchez, and the U.S. Department of Justice allowing various interrogation methods along with a 2003 visit to Abu Ghraib.

Watch the documentary and take time to reflect on it personally. Do you think an event such as this could happen in our own military? Assuming yes, what leadership efforts could you employ to prevent such a situation occurring in a complex environment? What ethics based training could you conduct with your team to ensure they are armed with the skills needed to make ethical based decisions during difficult situations?


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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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